For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative. What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record. Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting. It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect. Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about. Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version. In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score and followed that up in 2011, with a dominating 19-13 victory to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview. Having not won since 2009, Bry came back with a vengeance in 2012, winning 21-11. However, Doogan took the title right back in 2013 with a pretty easy 18-14 win (post reposted just below this one updated with last year’s results). This is now the seventh NFL preview we’ve done (which is HARD to believe) with Doogan holding a 4-2 all-time lead. Bry needs this one and, fortunately for him, will get the #1 pick to try and do it.
1). BRY – Houston Texans – OVER 2 wins: It seems general practice in these things that the #1 pick is almost always the Over on one of the worst teams in the NFL the previous year. I will not buck that trend, as there seems no way that the Texans can’t pick up 3 freaking wins. I mean they have 5 games on their schedule that are against either the Jags, the Titans, or the Raiders. Even if they go 2-3 in those 5, they only need to find one more win in the other 11 games. With the addition of JaDaveon Clowney and the subtraction of Matt Schaub, this team HAS to be better than 2-14.
2). DOOGAN – Washington Redskins – OVER 3 wins: I’ll stay right there with you on a the bottom-feeders. The defense looks like it will suck again, but there’s definitely reason to think the offense will be improved. Our old friend D-Jax is a massive upgrade over the receivers they had opposite Pierre Garcon last year. It’s a nice collection of weapons on offense, and a new coaching regime should be able to improve on what they produced last year. I know there’s some hand-wringing going on over RGIII but he’ll probably be fine.
3). DOOGAN – Atlanta Falcons- OVER 4 wins: I don’t think I’m as bullish on the Falcons as many (I don’t think they’re a playoff team), but there’s no reason to think they aren’t better than a 4-win team. They had injuries all over their offense last season, and with Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy, and with some new additions to the O-Line, they should be back to where they were in 2012, which means about 70 more points scored over the course of the season. But the underrated story was the decline of their defense last year. They’ve made some veteran additions there, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to turn it around. They’ll hover around .500.
4). BRY – Carolina Panthers – UNDER 12 wins: Well, you took my next two picks. Is it a bad sign that I already think this is getting tough? I’m usually bullish on the Panthers, but not this year. Their receiving corps is dreadful, unless you think the rookie Kelvin Benjamin can have a big year (and, if you know anything about rookie WRs, you don’t think that). And, Cam is starting the season banged up. Throw in the fact that every other team in this division looks markedly improved and you’ve got too much against this team for a really good defense to carry them anywhere near 12 wins again this year. I think they’ll be lucky to hit 9 or 10, but more likely in the 7 or 8 area.
5). DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – UNDER 11 wins: There were five that stood out to me as “easy” calls, this being the 5th. We’ll see how many actually turn out to be that easy. This is a situation where the Chiefs were obviously not as good as the 11 wins indicates. Not only did they finish the regular season 2-5 after the 9-0 start, but of all those 11 wins they beat exactly one playoff team (the Eagles way back in Week 3). They won’t get the favors from the schedule this year, especially matching up with the NFC West. That’s bad news for the offense, who lost a couple offensive line starters and versatile playmaker Dexter McCluster and replaced them with…basically nothing. A strong (if maybe overrated) defense and a very pedestrian offense against a tough schedule. They’ll be under .500.
6). BRY – Green Bay Packers – OVER 8 wins: There are few organizations in sports (and maybe none in the NFL) as well-run as the Green Bay Packers. They have the history coupled with constant relevance. They have a rabid fanbase that is pure, loyal, and local. And, most importantly, they have – in my opinion – the single best football player on the planet. They missed that player for 9 games last year and still won the division. I’m not sold on the Lions or Bears and the Vikings are most likely not going to play a role in the division race, so I don’t see much chance that this division is not won by the guys from Green Bay. Put me down for 10 or 11 wins, a division title, and quite possibly a surprise trip to the Super Bowl.
7). DOOGAN – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OVER 4 wins: Felt a lot better about this one when I remembered the massive upgrade they made at head coach, going from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith. Smith is a proven defensive coach, so I’m not too worried about the loss of Darrelle Revis. On offense, Josh McCown takes over at QB after playing really well in place of Jay Cutler in Chicago last year. Granted, McCown won’t have the weapons he had with the Bears, but the cupboard isn’t bare with Vincent Jackson and 1st-Round pick Mike Evans in the receiving corps. They also made some solid improvements on the O-line with two free agent additions and the big trade yesterday that netted them All-Pro guard Logan Mankins from New England. They can definitely get to 8 wins.
8). BRY – Cleveland Browns – OVER 4 wins: I think this is the third straight year that I have taken the Browns and the Over. And, this will probably be the third straight year that I get it wrong. You know how hard it is to get worse in the NFL 3 straight years? Well, this year I’m taking them not because of Johnny f’ing Football (that guy sucks), but because I think they might have a Top 5 defense. Yes, top 5. They did lose the underrated D’Qwell Jackson, but that might be a bigger deal for the Jackson Greys than the Cleveland Browns. Joe Haden is an ELITE corner. Justin Gilbert – their first-round pick – could walk right in and be adequate on the other side. Barkavious Mingo is in his second year and a possible stud in the making. And, they added some attitude with Donte Hitner (formerly Whitner, but officially changed his legal name because he “hits” so hard). And, I think with what they lack in offensive weapons, they can negate some of that with their elite offensive line, including Joe Thomas – maybe the best O-lineman in football. I’ll be realistic and only ask for 6 wins, but that’s more than 4.
9). DOOGAN – San Francisco 49ers – UNDER 12 wins: Not my usual move to go Under this early on a really good team, but I see red flags all over the place with this team. First, the more concrete problems. Three of their four starters in the secondary have left in free agency and the replacements are a mix of unproven and past their prime (Antoine Bethea). At linebacker, Aldon Smith is a disaster off the field and we’ll see if he even plays the 11 games he did last year. All-Pro freak Navorro Bowman (PSU alum, I must add) is out for at least half the year and will not be 100% when he does come back after blowing out his knee. So, all of a sudden, this great defense has some real concerns. I don’t like the Kaepernick off-the-field distractions. Not good from your quarterback. And, finally, there’s been so many rumors about Harbaugh wanting out and trying to get to a new team. Who knows, but where there’s smoke there’s fire and it’s a distraction and also maybe says something about how Harbaugh views this team moving forward. OK, that’s my long-winded way of saying the Niners are dropping from 12 wins to 10 this year.
10). BRY – Cincinnati Bengals – UNDER 11 wins: Doogan, I think you’ve literally taken my next pick every single time. But, anyway, let’s continue my recent trend of duplicating wrong picks I made last year. I took the Bengals Under-10 last year, and they won 11. So, I’m doubling-down here this year. They might still win this division (though, I would definitely take the field), but I think that Mike Zimmer made more of a difference than people may realize on the defensive side. I think that they take a slight step back defensively and nothing forward offensively. Plus, 11 is a pretty big number in a relatively tough division. 10, tops, for this Bengals team.
11). DOOGAN – Denver Broncos – UNDER 13 wins: I don’t feel great about this at all, and they burned me last year, but I’ll go for it again. Peyton threw a ridiculous 55 touchdowns last year. Can the offense keep up that sort of production? Every historical precedent says no. Peyton’s a year older, Eric Decker is gone, Welker already has another concussion this year, there are legit questions with the running backs. I know, Manning is not like other mere mortals and even at 38 he can probably take guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Monte Ball and make them stars. But the schedule will get tougher this year as they matchup with the NFC West. Logic says they’ll step back to 11-5.
12). BRY – Arizona Cardinals – UNDER 10 wins: I really don’t know what to think about the Cardinals. Their defense seems terrific, but they lost Daryl Washington for the season due to a drug suspension, and I think they may have overachieved a little bit last year. But, even if they’re the ’85 Bears or ’91 Eagles, they play in the best division in football with Carson Palmer at QB. 10 seems like an awfully big number to me.
13). DOOGAN – Detroit Lions – OVER 7 wins: They have a basically league-average defense in Detroit with just about all the same guys back from last year. A great front led by Suh and Ziggy Ansah, with some shaky secondary play. On offense, you think of them as really good but they somehow ranked just 13th in the league in points last year. Put those things together and 7 wins makes sense. I’ll bet on the offense improving. I’m not totally sold on Stafford and maybe he’s the problem, but they have the best receiver in the league, two nice running backs, and they’ve added solid Golden Tate opposite Megatron and 10th overall pick Eric Ebron at tight end. They look more like a 9-10 win team.
14). BRY – Seattle Seahawks – UNDER 13 wins: The defending Super Bowl champs look fantastic in the preseason and are the odds-on favorites to win again this year. And, I think that if you gave me the same odds on every team to win the Super Bowl, I would probably take Seattle. But, winning the Super Bowl and winning 13 regular season games are two very different things. 13 is just a huge number. And, the past decade or so hasn’t been too kind to teams coming off Super Bowl appearances. I think they still win the NFC West rather handily and probably even homefield advantage. But, I think there’s a better chance of 12-4 or worse than another 13-3 season.
15). DOOGAN – Indianapolis Colts – UNDER 11 wins: The Colts have two big things going for them: Andrew Luck and playing in a really weak division. But what else do they really have? They made no significant improvements to their roster in the offseason, apparently operating under the assumption that their young core will just get better and they already won 11 games, so why worry? That’s just not really how it works in the NFL. Especially when you have Reggie Wayne trying to come back from a blown knee at age 35 and Robert Mathis coming off a monster season, but one in which he was suspended late for performance-enhancing drugs. Throw in the fact that Houston figures to be much better as a divisonal foe, and it’s easy to see these guys dropping to 9-7.
16). BRY – Minnesota Vikings – OVER 5 wins: I don’t think the Vikes are all that good, and I don’t think they’re a playoff team. But, I do think that they have a relatively workable schedule, one of the best players of our generation, and a pretty low bar of 5 wins. Plus, we don’t know how much this new outdoors Minneapolis homefield is going to treat them in November and December. The Vikes won’t be all that relevant, but I think 5 wins is probably the low-end of their possibilities. Put me down for a 6-10 or 7-9 Vikings team.
17). DOOGAN – New York Jets – UNDER 8 wins: There’s some talk around the Jets this season that goes something like: Hey, Geno Smith looked good in the preseason. And he has Chris Johnson and Eric Decker as new weapons to use. And the defense is always good. So…they should be pretty good, right? Admittedly, not a ton of people are buying into that talk, and I’m not one of them. I’ll believe it when I see it with this offense, and the defense was actually NOT all that good last year (19th in points allowed), and they’ve made no improvements to that side of the ball. I’ve never been a big Rex Ryan believer, and I think this is his final go-round at the Meadowlands.
18). BRY – Pittsburgh Steelers – OVER 8 wins: If you’ve focused predominantly on the Eagles this preseason, then (a) I don’t blame you, they look great and (b) you might have a warped sense of who the Steelers are this year. They looked really bad in the all-important 3rd preseason game against the Eagles. So bad, in fact, that they kept their first teams out there well into the second half against all the Eagles #2s – and still couldn’t get anything done. But, I think that that game was an anomaly, and I actually might declare the Steelers as my pick to win what should be a pretty intense 3-team race in the AFC North. I think Roethlisberger is an underappreciated star (and world-class human being, obviously), and the team looked really good down the stretch last year. They lost Emmanuel Sanders to Denver, but he wasn’t that important. And, the under-the-radar aspect of their 8-8 2013 season is that they had NO running game. But, this year Laveon Bell could make the leap, and they added a nice complement in LaGarrette Blount (all blunt jokes aside). And, maybe the biggest upgrade should be on a defense that started to look old last year, but added some key pieces, including first-round pick, Ryan Shazier, who, by all accounts looks like a star from the jump. And, they have the best d-coordinator to ever live still running that side of the ball. I think they win the division, which means at least 9 wins.
19). DOOGAN – Dallas Cowboys – UNDER 8 wins: Can Dallas go 8-8 for the fourth straight year? Fortunately, I don’t think so. I can’t deny that they have a decent enough offense, even if Romo is the biggest choke artist in sports at the moment. But this defense might be worst in football, and that’s just not gonna get you a winning record. I used to really hate Jerry Jones, but I’ve come around on him. In fact, I hope he keeps owning (and making football decisions for) the Cowboys for a long, long time.